As Coach Montgomery reminds everyone, similar question marks were repeatedly asked a year ago, and that seemed to work out well for the Wolverines.
"Last year you guys were saying the same thing about them, so I look forward to these guys getting better during training camp and stepping up to the plate," said Montgomery. "Because when you play at Michigan the expectation is the position. They're going to have to play to our standards."
For the Wolverines to be successful, senior Will Campbell will have to play to Michigan's standards in the middle of the defense. Although nothing can be known for sure until the lights go on on September 1st, Coach Montgomery is encouraged by the dedication and leadership displayed by Campbell on a daily basis.
"He had a great off-season and he had a great spring," said Montgomery. "He's got his weight down, he looks good, looks kind of like a body builder a little bit. I wish I had that body. He's doing a great job. He's leading, and you talk about guys running sprints and stuff like that, he's leading the pack at 300 pounds. He's working harder than he's ever worked and I'm excited to see him strap it on on the 1st."
And come September 1st, the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide will unleash an offensive line respected by college football coaches across the country, including the Wolverines.
"They're the best offensive line I've seen in college football—period," said Montgomery. "They're as big and as strong as any of them I've seen, and we've got to go in there and compete. That's what we're going to ask our guys to do, is go in there and compete. They're doing good, they're doing good up front. "
Montgomery continued on about Alabama's offensive line: "And I'm not kidding you when I say that they're as good as I've seen up front. I've watched a lot of film, and they're as big and as massive as you can get, and they move well, and they run the football. As the defensive line coach I've got to get my guys ready to go and be physical at the point of attack and play knock them back football."
If the Wolverines hope to be able to push back against Alabama and the rest of the Wolverines' 2012 schedule, sophomore Jake Ryan will need to be even better than he was as a year ago. With a full off-season to add strength and familiarize himself with the defense, Ryan is ready to go in whatever role the coaches have for him on defense.
"You guys remember that last year Jake played on the defensive line, so it's really no different—he's just bigger, faster, stronger now," said Montgomery. "You guys will see him on the D line in certain situations, absolutely."
"You got to think about it—when a kid plays as a true freshman they're playing off some instincts and just flying around," continued Montgomery. "That's what he did. Now he's a year older and he's learned the defense, and he's picked it up and he's gotten better at his technique and fundamentals. He's going to be that much better of a player with instincts. Look forward to a big year from him."
Another Wolverine up front that played as a freshmen in 2011 is Plymouth-Canton native Brennan Beyer who's added muscle which will have a major impact on his production as a sophomore.
"It's going to be huge," said Montgomery. "He did a good job for us last year as a true freshman, but putting on some weight, some speed, some quickness means he's going to do a great job for us."
With added speed along the defensive line thanks to the position moves of senior Craig Roh and junior Jibreel Black, Montgomery feels the Wolverines will be able to get to the quarterback with relative consistency.
"That's probably somewhere where we've made some improvements, cause we've got some guys with some fast twitch," said Montgomery. "On third down they should be able to generate some pass rush."
Those expecting some of the freshmen defensive linemen to contribute and be effective as part of the pass rush and rush defense need to be forewarned. Being able to push around smaller competition in high school means the learning curve in college from a technique standpoint is a steep slope.
"It's a big deal," said Montgomery. "The technique and fundamentals are what we pride ourselves on here, and so on top of learning the play they've got to learn to play with technique and fundamentals. It's a process, but the more we get them out there the better they'll be at it."
To watch the video of the full interview with Coach Montgomery, click play below.